Normally I don’t read much contemporary young adult literature. Honestly, I can’t remember any I’ve read in the last couple of years. I read some along with my daughter when she was young but stopped as she got older. I couldn’t bring myself to read the “Twilight” series because the brooding vampire thing doesn’t really do it for me. The last brooding vampire I read about was Lestat and I lost interest in him after “The Vampire Lestat”. I would have read along with my son but he went from “Captain Underpants” to Issac Asimov. Until last week.
Looking for a new book for him to read I saw “I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President” by Josh Lieb. I could no more pass up that title than I could pass up free breadsticks and trust me, my friends, there’s no way I would pass up either. If the title alone didn’t attract me there was a great story to boot.
Now, my family can tell you I have an infinite ability to suspend disbelief. Really, I’ll pretty much buy anything for a good story. So, I didn’t have a problem with an eighth grade genius being the second richest person in the world with a secret lair the covered almost the entire underside of the city of Omaha and secret minions who keep him protected from the bullies in not only the world but in the halls of Gale Sayers Middle School. The problem I had when I started to read this was the over the top style it was “written” in. I could really see the writing, at first. But, then I had to rejigger my thinking. It’s suppose to be over the top. How could it not? We’re talking about a boy running for eighth grade president to secretly hires an elite campaign strategist to help him rig the election, he has a special stall in the boys bathroom where the toilet dispenses milk duds and popcorn. I got it, over the top is what Lieb was going for. It’s sly and irreverent, it’s funny and snarky, and it actually has somethings to say about politics, parenting, and what being an evil genius really means.
Lieb was an Executive Producer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and also worked on The Simpsons which definitely shows in his style. It’s smart and funny. Think Dexter’s Laboratory (do people remember that cartoon?) with less accent and more treats. Better still, there’s a happy ending even though Oliver is now only the fourth richest person in the world.